More Than Beer

If Charles Seligman were to revisit the beer distribution business he started 80 years ago, he probably wouldn’t recognize it.

Oh, Chas. Seligman Distributing Co. still delivers beer — about four million cases a year. But since moving to its state-of-the-art distribution center in Walton eight years ago, the company has expanded into a full-line beverage distributor handling wine, energy drinks, milk products and more.

“When we moved out here we had about 165 SKUs (stock keeping units) and today we have over 800,” says Jennifer Doering, general manager and one of Seligman’s grandchildren.

“We’ve really tried to use the resources we have—our trucks, our people and our delivery service—to expand into other products,” she says.

About a year and a half ago, the company made a big investment in a voice-activated order picking system that directs warehouse workers to specific products’ racks and sizes when filling orders.

“They do a heck of a job getting through all the packages so we get the correct order to the retailer,” she says.

Seligman distributes products in more than a dozen Northern Kentucky counties throughout the commonwealth. It employs 125 and operates 32 trucks.

One thing that hasn’t changed at Seligman is family ownership. Ruth Seligman Doering, chairman and CEO, is Jennifer’s mother and Charles Seligman’s daughter. Kristin Tracy, Jennifer’s sister, handles marketing and cousin Stacy Staat handles phone sales.

Beer, of course, still accounts for most of the business. As an Anheuser-Busch distributor in Northern Kentucky, Budweiser products represent half of the four million cases of beer that move through the 142,000 square-foot facility off Dixie Highway.

Seligman, who passed away in 1968, started as a Burger beer bottler and distributor in Covington after Prohibition ended in 1933. After meeting August Busch Jr. in 1939, he started distributing Budweiser when it was still just a regional brand.

Continuing to stay abreast of the ever-changing beer market, Seligman has added other brands such as Bass Ale, Beck’s, Lowenbrau and Cameron Hughes wines since 2005.

Recently it added its first regional craft brew: SweetWater Brewing Co., a growing Atlanta-based brewer of West Coast style IPAs and Pale Ales.

Although still a small part of overall volume, the non-alcoholic side of Seligman’s business, energy drinks in particular, is growing the fastest, says Jennifer.

“The Monster Energy drink has been a phenomenal product,” she says. “They just keep broadening their portfolio. They’ve expanded into different flavors and sizes.”

And consumers are responding.

“I don’t think it is uncommon now to see people go to convenience stores in [the] morning and buy a couple energy drinks. They grab one on [the] way to work in lieu of coffee, and put the other in the fridge, pulling it out at lunch,” says Jennifer.

As the market continues to evolve, so does Seligman. Jennifer says the company is talking about expanding its warehouse in a year or so.

“We have the room here to double the size if we need to,” she says.